The Kafue Release Facility is based on the southern side of the Kafue National Park, an hour's drive away from the nearest town Itezhi-Tezhi. With its remote location and team of 32 employees ranging from grounds staff, keepers, research team and rangers, it is a full-time job to ensure all are provided with food for breakfast, lunch and supper 365 days a year.
Justin and his team are one of the many employees who may not be directly on the front line of conservation, however without them none of our operations would be possible. They ensure that the team is well looked after so that they are able to focus on their job protecting the elephants.
We can’t hope to save wildlife without first saving the people dedicated to conserving it.
In his own words, Justin tells us what life is like as a GRI Head Cook.
What did you want to be when you were little?
When I was little, still in school, my dream was to become a solider because my daddy was a solider.
What is your favourite animal?
An Elephant because I have grown up in an area where there are elephants and I grew up to study elephants their behaviours and that is how I got interested in an elephant.
Do you a have a favourite orphaned elephant?
Maramba. When I first started some years back, I use to help the keepers at the boma and every time Maramba came back from his walk he was the first one running forward for the pellets. Always excited for more food.
When did you start at GRI
I first started working for GRI in 2014 when a team from GRI Wildlife Research came to my community. They were going into the communities for elephant conflict and that’s where they met me. I was volunteering then by helping collect data sheets and doing some research in the communities. After a year, 2015, Mr Theo (Olivier, Senior Technical Advisor) called me to come and work as a casual. After 2015 I was selected among the group of 3 casuals to permanently stay with the grounds team. in the ended I worked a bit in the kitchen, helped on grounds and at that stage helped at the buffalo boma as boma keeper. It was only in 2017 that they moved me to kitchen permanently where I worked as camp assistant, under the previous Head Cook. I helped him until 2018 when he left, and Mr Theo offered me the position of Head Cook.
What does it mean to be Head cook at Kafue Release Facility?
Head cook is more like a Chef who prepares food for breakfast, lunch and supper for the staff on camp. That is the role I am currently in and enjoying. At first it was a bit difficult, but I got used to it and started using the skills that I had.
How many people do you serve?
When I started the max number of people, I was serving was 18 – 19 but now it is 32 –35 people. I remember when we were building the volunteer side the number was 42 people it was a lot of people to cook for.
Where and who did you learn to cook from?
I learned to cook in primary school though I did not like the subject and cooking then. I learnt how to bake there and still use that skill today.
What is your favourite meal?
Everyone in Zambia likes the Shima. Otherwise sometimes rice, chips or watermelon but the guys on camp come for the Shima.
What does breakfast, lunch and supper look like?
I usually go out weekly to collect some rations so it all depends on what is available in town.
For breakfast, the team will have bush buns and sometimes rice though the guys don’t like rice. For lunch and supper, that is when I cook the Shima with chicken or vegetables, sometimes beef, beans, fish ect. It all depends on the rations available.
How many people help you?
I have three camp assistance so every week we are 3 in a group with one on rest. We divide ourselves; one goes with the dishes at the volunteer area the other one just by main kitchen helping with the dishes and helping me making the buns.
We are all familiar with bush buns is there another recipe you can share with us?
Yes. Everyone enjoys the cookies. (Also known as Fritters)
Bush Fritters by Justin
6¾ cups Flour (all-purpose flour)
2 tsp Salt
2 tbsp Sugar
1 packet Yeast
Cooking oil (for frying)
How To Make The Dough
Mix sugar and yeast with some lukewarm water.
Sift flour and salt.
Pour yeast in flour and knead.
Keep adding water and knead until you have a consistency like a bread dough.
Leave the dough in the bowl and cover the bowl with a cloth to rise for about 45- 60min. It should double in size.
How To Cook
Pour the cooking oil into a frying pan and heat to about 375°F.
Scoop out dough and place two or three piece at a time into the oil. Fry each side until golden brown.